Sunni Arab Leader Dies In N. Iraq Bomb Attack

By Ernesto Londoño and Zaid Sabah
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 19, 2009

BAGHDAD, Jan. 18 -- A top leader of a Sunni Arab political party was killed in a suicide bombing in northern Iraq on Sunday night as he and other politicians were discussing the upcoming provincial elections, Iraqi officials said.

Hassan Zaidan al-Lihebi, the deputy leader of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, was at home in al-Lihaib, a village south of Mosul, when an assailant shot two guards, walked into the house, approached Lihebi and detonated explosives wrapped around his body, Iraqi police officials said.

The attack occurred amid bitter competition between Sunni Arabs and Kurds for control of Nineveh province, one of four that includes areas claimed by both Arabs and Kurds. The outcome of the elections scheduled for Jan. 31 is expected to influence the fight over the disputed areas. Because Sunnis boycotted the 2005 elections in Iraq, it is widely expected that Kurds will lose ground in Nineveh and other provinces with large Sunni Arab populations.

Lihebi was not a candidate, but he was directing the campaigns of his party's candidates in Nineveh, according to lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq, the party's chief. "Our platform calls for Iraq's unification and for a rejection to sectarianism," Mutlaq said. "That's why many sides in this country will target our project. Because it goes against their agendas."

Police officials and party members said they did not know who was behind the attack. The Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq remains entrenched in Nineveh, and party officials said that Lihebi, an Iraqi army lieutenant general before the war, had worked in recent years to marginalize it.

Also Sunday, a U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

Special correspondents Dlovan Brwari in Irbil and Qais Mizher in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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